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Posts tagged ‘guest stars’

You TV fat cats have plenty of money

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Funeral for a Fiend

Couch gag: A magician uses his cape to make the couch and family appear.

Director: Rob Oliver

Guest voices:
Keith Olbermann as himself
Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
David Hyde Pierce as Cecil
John Mahoney as Dr Robert Terwilliger Sr

Synopsis: The Simpsons are lured into another murder plot by Sideshow Bob, but will Bart make it out alive?

Discussion: Firstly, didja miss me? I’ve been away for a week without internet. Well, there was internet, but it was slow and expensive.

Secondly, this episode harks the return of Sideshow Bob, who hasn’t been seen since his Italian adventure in season 17. The premise to Bob’s return is some garbage about batteries, TiVo and not watching ads, making the Simpsons see a TV commercial specifically aimed at them to draw them into another murderous plot by Sideshow Bob. The plan works nicely until Lisa uncovers the true plot but are they in time to save Bart?

Sideshow Bob is one of those characters that gets better as the seasons progress. He’s now got a family as well as revenge to think about, so 87 years in jail is a nice long time to think about them. This episode has very average moments, but also moments of laugh-out-loud funny, which is missing too often from these episodes. One standout moment of sheer comedic silliness is Homer coming out of the bathroom with a DIY home perm. Unfortunately the moments of funny aren’t enough to save the episode; Krusty’s parody of Elton John’s Candle in the Wind from Diana, Princess of Wales’ funeral could have been tweaked to have a funeral for the show in general… Anyhoo, I digress.

This ep follows standard formula whenever Sideshow Bob is present: he’s trying to kill the family, there’s a fantastic scheme foiled at the last minute (usually by Lisa) and Bob ends up in jail. This gives the viewer a narrative framework to work from and also gives the show a chance to embrace continuity and enhance the Bob character. These aren’t bad things, by the way. It’s just something to remind us of why we loved the show and why the die-hard fans (and bored bloggers) continue to watch.

More kudos for the guest voice cast: it was a brilliant move to engage David Hyde Pierce as Bob’s brother Cecil back in season 8 as Pierce and Grammer played brothers on Frasier. Dr Robert Terwilliger Sr, crucial to Sideshow Bob’s evil plan, is voiced by John Mahoney, who played Frasier and Cecil’s father on Frasier. There’s nothing like keeping it in the family, even if the family are fictional characters on TV.

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The bitterness is strong in this one

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Marge

I cannot hire a substitute student

Couch gag: The family are a colour-by-numbers kit, hand painted by Asian artists.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voice:
Parker Posey as Becky

Synopsis: Otto is due to marry Becky, but Becky calls off the wedding when she realises Otto will never give up heavy metal music. The Simpsons take Becky in, and Marge becomes paranoid that Becky is trying to steal her family away from her.

Discussion: Despite having a poor reception from fans (apparently), I really like this episode. Instead of going off on tangents, the story is tight an concise, focusing only on one storyline. And it’s a good story too: Otto is set to marry the lovely Becky, but is ditched at the aisle for heavy metal music. So she moves in with the Simpsons until she finds her feet. Exactly how Marge ends up suspicious about Becky trying to usurp her and steal her family… well, that’s a bit unclear but it adds to Marge’s irrational thoughts.

Not everything about the ep is great; for example, Marge’s attempts to stay out of the mental asylum are tedious (except for the marching band) and that bit on Krusty where Marge’s face has Sideshow Mel’s lips is out-of-place. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and one has the feeling it is definitely an in-joke to the writers and Conan O’Brien.

However, as far as season 11 is concerned, this is one of the better eps. It stays true to one story, the catalyst is a stranger and not previously part of the Simpsons universe, and the end scene with Bart finally filming his school assignment is fantastic.

Lisa, do I have my pants on?

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Trash of the Titans

I will not mess up the opening credits

couch gag: The family run in but find Bart writing lines on the chalkboard

Director: Jim Reardon

Guest voices:
Steve Martin as Ray Patterson
U2 as themselves

Synopsis: After a row with the sanitation dept, Homer runs for sanitation commissioner and wins, but spend the annual budget in a month which leaves his department broke. 

Discussion: Without the appearance of U2 and a catchy song, what does this episode really offer? It takes a long time to get to the point, shows a few minutes of Homer’s ineptitude and then moves the whole town and makes a Native American cry. Based on this, the ep gets an average rating from me.

There are good bits. There’s a catchy song based on Candyman from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, there’s a special appearance from U2 plus a song from them, and Steve Martin. Plus a ton of memorable lines and images. 

Then there are the average bits, which is basically everything else. I can’t really say there are bad bits, because there aren’t. There are only bits which don’t shine. The extended scene of Bart and Homer competing not to take the trash out, the accumulation of a massive trash pile (including Diaper Hill) and the environmental message, which makes a Native American cry. My biggest question is: why is there a Native American there to begin with? Is this to drive home the enviro message when the writers didn’t specifically set out to create one? It’s very confusing. 

This is the show’s 200th episode. It’s a decent effort but doesn’t really shine. 

Maybe she drove to the moon

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The Secret War of Lisa Simpson

couch gag: The couch is upside down and when the family sit on it, they fall down. 

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Guest voice:
Willem Dafoe as the Commandant

Synopsis: After another of Bart’s pranks, he is sent to military school. Lisa finds the school also catering to her needs and enrols there too, but finds that it’s a lot harder than she expected. 

Discussion: In the last episode of season 8, Bart and Lisa attend military school. This episode only works if you view it one way: as the connection between siblings. We’ve come straight from the satire of a spin-off showcase into a much darker episode where Lisa is challenged and unaccepted by her peers in a military school. Her secret war is her challenge for acceptance and to actually learn something at school, plus missing her mum and general homesickness. 

It’s not a strong finish to the season, leaving the viewer dissatisfied. If the ep had focused on Bart’s secret war with less emphasis on Lisa, it probably would have worked better. Bart’s prank with the line of megaphones is classic Bart, as is his subsequent prank of driving off on the ride-on mower as Chief Wiggum discusses military school with Marge and Homer. Sure, let Lisa stay at military school, but make Bart the focus; maybe Lisa is better at being accepted and encourages Bart to finish the Eliminator. 

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